I observe that many Guyanese still like to bury their heads in the sand in true ostrich-like fashion. Even in the hard sands of Guyana, mental exercises and crude, laughable tap-dancing enable many to drill deep and create openings to hide their heads. Whether sand or ignorance, there is this undeniable reality: Increasing superpower interests and investments in the neighbourhood, as well as still unfolding visions and strategies for the region with their own priorities in mind. I think that this cannot be warming news for Guyanese citizens, which is made more unpalatable through another distress: Guyana is near to this, trapped in this, and too close for comfort to the emerging proving grounds.
On one side, there are the Americans. Others follow. And wherever the Americans go (ideologically, economically, and politically), the capitalist-oriented, Western half of the world somehow finds itself tagging along. It is not slavishly or blindly; or on any and every issue. But on the material and consequential matters of the times, that sturdy alliance is usually of one mind, and the quintessence of a unified voice and a formidable powerhouse political and military bloc.
It is not all smooth sailing and one big happy family in the free market hemisphere. For across the North Atlantic, there is dissonance and discomfort over the unmoving, and as believed by some, unnecessary presence of NATO; looming conflicts over going or staying within the Union; and still muted quarrels about the rich and strong having to fortify the shaky and poor. These are all temporarily held in abeyance.
But invariably, the core of the western-oriented EU, and a clear majority of its member states, are American-centric. To be sure, there is historical and ongoing chafing at the, sometimes overbearing, American presence and influence, but when battle lines must be drawn, there is the no-brainer of one way of leaning. Though there are individual states breaching sanctions or looking for a deal that favours their own economic interests through engagements with the hostile other side, at the end of the day, there is great sensitivity that way of life and military dependency still hinges heavily on the dratted, many times insufferable Americans. Guyanese are beginning to acquire a taste of the European distaste. Unlike the infatuation here, there is serious resistance over there to those ever-present strains of cultural imperialism and economic muscle. It is part of the American Way, and it can be ubiquitous.
I urge revisiting that so-called time of the “peace dividend” when there were American military advisers in (perhaps) more countries in the world than the United Nations boasted in its membership. That was the so-called New World Order. To the thoughtful and critical (as well as the cynical and competing), that appeared to be more of an arrogant American order, and one to be tolerated only until the proper strengths were gathered. In that rather short span, the sick weakened Russian Bear languished in hibernation, while the Chinese Dragon was more of a giraffe and less of the mighty juggernaut into which it is now transformed. This is the far other side, the ignored and dismissed side of a burgeoning economic bloc (a twinning threat, all things considered). It is up and running in a more pronounced manner for the past several years and growing in strength annually. There was not enough strength to challenge (or object too strenuously) to the Anglo-American led Iraqi adventure at the beginning of the 21st century. Today is different, though.
Look at the new economic maps, and the outlines are clear: there are the Iranians grinding axes, maintaining forces, and tying bundles with Eastern and Slavic powers, and possessing the oil supply to nudge others to their side and the opportunities, fundamentalism and all. The North Koreans function as a boisterous, pugnacious surrogate for mischief and some danger to the West, with the Russians and Chinese believed to be playing a double game at the expense of the stretched Americans. When examined from a global perspective, the lengthy and much-vaunted American supremacy is under challenge from different adversaries using different strategies and on different fronts.
Right next door, enfeebled Venezuela is developing as a test case with the two opposing global power blocs taking sides and signaling intent; all parties have skin in the game, whether through currency or strategy. Guyana used to have the luxury of observing from a distance that real war in Vietnam, those proxy wars in Africa (Angola, Libya, Nigeria, and other places), and the ongoing conflicts in the wider Middle East. Well, not anymore; not since that oil (and other things) of its ruptured, menacing neighbour came under big power lockdown, and big squaring off. Local fallout threatens, with Guyana in a place akin to that of Bikini Atoll. However matters play out, once innocent pristine Guyana cannot – and will not – remain either untroubled or untouched.
Trouble brews. It brews from what others nearby have. It brews from what Guyana continues to find and from all the other riches still in the ground. And it brews from the raging internal social and racial cauldron that can only intensify in temperature and through political undercurrents.